A long time ago, in a state, far far away, I wrote a poem about winter’s effect, called “waiting for the thaw.” That poem was thick with references to the sense of stillness and cold awareness of a snow covered Jersey. The protagonist, if you can have one in a poem, was a man in a thick coat bearing down against an approaching wind, walking on the icy grass of February.
New Jersey winters, at least the ones of my memory, are filled with the sounds of the metal plow on pavement and the quiet moments between their routes. And I wrote a poem about that noise, that pervasive cold which, towards the end of February, took on the feel of death. The slush piles high on the corners of Main St. have grown black and sickly yellow, just waiting for the thaw, waiting for the end.
So I got to thinking about what it means to live far from the waiting room for stillborns that is a New Jersey winter. Out here, Oregon that is, there is a different sense of waiting in the winter air. It’s closer to optimism. A giddiness, because we made it through the winter, through the oppression of constant rain. Now, we look forward to the spring, as rebirth. We look over our shoulder and smile at Winter sitting there in his long overcoat, sipping from a steaming cup of coffee, cross-legged, patient for the return of his domain.
So, in America, when the sun goes down… I think of that first whiff of spring. The slight moisture on the breeze heralds the return of spring, of expectation, walking in a park, on a street, or sitting next to the fading visage of winter.
A quote, which got me thinking, from Thomas Lynch’s “The Undertaking”:
“The mercy is that what we buried there, in an oak casket, just under the frost line, had ceased to be Milo. Milo had become the idea of himself, a permanent fixture of the third person and past tense, his widow’s loss of appetite and trouble sleeping, the absence in places where we look for him, our habits of him breaking, our phantom limb, our one hand washing the other.”